Pussy Riot: Activist filmmakers come to Portland

Pussy Riot in Portland

On Tuesday, February 9th, two members of the activist filmmaker and rock group “Pussy Riot” held court with Pink Martini band member Storm Large and OPB journalist John Sepulvado.

Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk rock protest group based in Moscow. Founded in 2011, it has eleven members. Maria Alyokhina, one of the two members in attendance, was jailed for two years after she held an anti-Putin punk protest at a Moscow church in 2012. She was found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.

The dimly lit Crystal Ballroom was packed and follows a tour for the group down the West Coast. Their appearance is a fundraiser to spotlight current art activists incarcerated in Russia. The event kicked off with a screening of a trailer from their yet-to-be-released documentary called “Pussy vs. Putin.”

Pussy Vs Putin – Excerpt from the 59 minute documentary from Journeyman Pictures on Vimeo.

After the video, the group dove into their history. Masha Alekhina spoke through a translator.

Her activism started because of a forest around her home that was to be developed and destroyed. She gathered her girlfriends to help. They protested the development and Masha even took her baby in a stroller to the picket line. It was her first political action that gave her the courage to be an activist.

With the forest victory, they looked for a headquarters or space to congregate. They found a spot near a cafe in the arts district–an area coveted for its unavailability. They were lucky and leased a space. After the first week or so a neighboring cafe owner came to her and asked to have a private chat with her. She obliged. The cafe owner said that the FSB (new name for KGB) came and asked the women to put a listening bug so that they could hear what the Pussy Riot team was saying and doing. She said no.

Alekhina said, “every action may not change the world around but action will change things.” She went on to emphasize how important this cafe owners actions were. The everyday person needs to put into action where and when they can. It’s these small sacrifices that really make a difference in political activism, not people that devote their whole life to the process.

Alekhina also discussed her time in prison and how they frequently punished her with solitary confinement. She felt that she had to fight for her dignity in prison. And art activists in prison are the reason for Pussy Riot’s tour and visit to Portland. They discussed one artist who sewed his mouth shut in protest and later burnt the door of the FSB. They shared photographs and discussed the artists current status in the Russian penal system.

The Pussy Riots recently released a new video titled, “Chaika.”

Tweets and Instgram Photos from the Event:

Maria. @all_mary #PussyRiot

A photo posted by Storm Large (@stormof69) on

Josh Leake
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Josh Leake

Executive Director at Portland Film Festival
Portland-based producer and director Josh Leake is the founder and executive director of the Portland Film Festival, which MovieMaker Magazine named one of the world's "coolest" film festivals. He produced "Glena," a feature length documentary that premiered at Slamdance ’14 (now available on Showtime and VOD). His film "Emptys," a short documentary about people who collect beverage containers as their principal source of income, won first place at Tropfest New York. With his production company, Mindpollen, he's currently developing an adaption of Chuck Palahniuk's "Lullaby." Follow him on Twitter @joshleake and @portlandfilm.
Josh Leake
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